If I had been told as a student that salesmanship and networking would be the two skill sets crucial to my success as an optometrist, I never would have taken that person seriously. Now that I have a few years of practice under my belt, I can attest that this is most definitely true. The type of sales that I do every day isn’t the sales of eyeglasses and contact lenses (although occasionally this is the case), but rather selling myself, my image, and my competence to those that I come in contact with day in and day out, better known as networking.
Have you ever noticed that the most popular doctors are the ones who are well liked by their patients and their peers? That is because these individuals have mastered the skill of networking and use networking opportunities daily to externally market themselves. These doctors have been able to make a personal connection with their patients and peers which fuels the momentum to build their practices.
How do these popular doctors manage to successfully network with others and why is it that networking often takes us further than the traditional newspaper advertisement? The reason is very simple; a newspaper advertisement delivers great information about your practice but networking enables a personal connection between two people which is something next to impossible to achieve through advertising or other more traditional ways of promoting your practice.
Professional networking is most common in a social setting such as at a doctor dinner or reception. It is in these social settings that I’ve had the best opportunities to get to know my colleagues and learn more about them and their practices. Networking has proven
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to be equally beneficial for me locally as well. The very best advertising I have done for my practice has always been through networking. While newspaper ads and press releases have helped to increase awareness about my practice in the community, these types of external marketing techniques have never really been a huge success. The instances where I have volunteered for a community fundraiser or had podium time in front of a local civic organization have proven to be invaluable to the growth of my practice. These types of functions give the public the opportunity to learn a little more about me and my practice.
However, in order to be successful at networking, you should always remember that networking involves so much more than volunteerism or podium time. Networking is something that is ongoing and never ends. Be mindful that there are eyes everywhere, watching and observing your behavior not just inside the walls of your practice but outside of your practice as well. For instance, drinking too much alcohol at a community or professional function would be an example of poor networking. As I had mentioned earlier, the purpose of fruitful networking is to sell yourself, your competence, your practice and your overall image to those around you in order to give people a positive, personal connection with you. May I recommend that each of you reflect on what you would like your community, patients, colleagues, and peers to perceive as their image of you and put your best foot forward every day to be that person. I assure you that being cognizant of networking yourself positively with others will pay off dividends. Remember YOU are your best advertisement, far better than a newspaper ad or press release ever could be.
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